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Reports of Online Computer Repair Scams Multiply

Law enforcement agencies in Maryland and Virginia are warning the public about a recent increase in crimes involving online computer repair scams.

According to a recent newspaper report published by USA Today, police detectives in Ocean City, Maryland, are investigating a cluster of incidents that consist of victims being contacted through email, text messages, social media update, or over the telephone. In most cases, scammers gain remote access to Windows desktops and laptops after victims fall for their story, which presents them as computer technicians working for Microsoft and monitoring internet traffic.

Learning to Identify Online Scams

Identity theft and fraudulent credit card charges have been reported in several states during the first weeks of the New Year. On January 6, a local newspaper from Williamsburg, Virginia reported that a 67 year-old man lost $6,700 to computer repair scammers who stole his identity and ran up the balance of his Visa Platinum card with fraudulent cash advances. In this particular case, the scammers applied a confidence scam that started in April 2016 and continued through December.

The Williamsburg man was first contacted on his mobile phone and told that this desktop computer had been infected with malware. The scammers then asked the man to switch on remote access, at that time they may have introduced malware and showed the computer owner a fake antivirus scan report. At that time, the man agreed to pay $249.99 for the fraudulent repair, which was charged to his credit card.

The scammers contacted the man a second time and charged his credit card once again. A few months later the scammers called again, and this time they said that they were planning on refunding the amounts charged for the previous computer services because they were changing their business model. The victim gave the scammers the routing information of his checking account so that $500 could be wired. The scammers initiated a wire transfer for $5,000 and showed the man proof of the transaction, which they immediately stopped, but not before telling the victim that they had accidentally entered an extra zero. At that point, they asked the man to return the wire, which he did.

The scammers claimed that the $5,000 wire never made it, and somehow convinced the man to get a $4,700 cash advance from his credit card, which he also ended up wiring.

Detectives investigating the aforementioned cases are urging the public to hang up on unsolicited calls from unfamiliar computer repair services.
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